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Yes, he Khan
Midway into the movie, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD), there is a scene where Ranbir and Deepika set out to climb a haunted hill on a full moon night. There in the snowy quiet over a bottle of shared local brew, they strike a connection and he bares his heart: "Main udna chahta hoon. Main daudna chahta hoon. Girna bhi chahta hoon. Bus rukna nahi chahta (I want to fly. I want to run. I want to fall or fail too. What I don't want is to stop. )".
Those who've closely followed the arc of Ranbir Kapoor's career say that pretty much describes the man. His box-office fortunes have been soaring too, shattering quite a few records.
Bollywood trade website koimoi. com shows that YJHD (Rs 176 crore and counting) is already one of the top three grossing Hindi films across India, after 3 Idiots (Rs 202 crore) and Ek Tha Tiger (Rs 198 crore).
YJHD took just seven days to reach the coveted Rs 100-cr mark, just a day more than Salman Khan's record-holding Ek Tha Tiger, says koimoi. com. 3 Idiots took nine days.
The masala romcom has become the first non-Khan film to enter the list of Top 10 Bollywood hits abroad.
What YJHD, the biggest hit of 2013 yet, has added to Ranbir's resume is: a solo blockbuster, both home and abroad. No surprise, Komal Nahta of Film Information, a trade magazine, feels YJHD was a big step in his career. "The film is a pan-India success both in multiplexes and single screens. The collection is remarkable because there was no national holiday or festival in between."
Vishal Anand, operations head of the multiplex chain Fun Cinema says audiences, especially the ladies, love him. "You can actually call RK the new 'Superman' of Indian cinema. His young, energetic and flirtatiously cool looks make him popular across age brackets. "
In YJHD, Ranbir brings an indefinable star quality to the part, something inescapably evident in his rakish tapori dance act with the ageing-and-willing Madhuri Dixit. No surprise, much like the Axe Body spray he endorses these days, for many young and old females, he is a hotline to heaven.
For Rishi Kapoor's son (and Raj Kapoor's grandson), the khandaan casts a rather long shadow. But the 30-year-old star doesn't seem weighed down by lineage;he even referenced uncle Shammi's iconic song, 'Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra' in Rockstar. In his TV interviews, Ranbir has often displayed un-starlike candour. For instance, the actor has admitted to experimenting with drugs during his New York days. "I have tried it. . . but I am not endorsing it. It is important for me to be honest, " he told a news channel sometime back.
That's why Anurag Basu, who directed him in Barfi! and is now partnering with him in a film company, Picture Shuru productions, says, "He typifies the new cool among the young: effortless, carefree and intelligent. People find it easy to relate to him. " Adds social scientist Shiv Visvanathan, "He is a representative and keeper of the Kapoor legacy. So he is old reinvented as new and new reinventing itself further. Ranbir is the only young actor who has both intelligence and mystique."
Much like Mount Everest these days, Bollywood's box-office summit is a crowded place. Apart from the three Khans, Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh, Hrithik Roshan too is back in the reckoning after two consecutive winners, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Agneepath. And there is no evidence that any of the four is vacating space. But clearly in the past two years, Ranbir has wrenched out more space for himself in this league of extraordinary gentlemen. As for actors from his own generation, nobody even comes close to Ranbir. That he shares great onscreen chemistry with most female co-stars - Katrina Kaif (Ajab Prem. . . ), Priyanka Chopra (Anjaana Anjaani), Ileana D'Cruz (Barfi!) or Deepika Padukone (YJHD) - and has shown a knack for sensitive romantic scenes, has only helped his cause.
The actor has done it on his own terms. YJHD director Ayan Mukerji says that Ranbir follows his instinct while choosing scripts. Mukerji remembers being very anxious when he went to Ranbir's house with the script of his debut film, Wake Up Sid (2009). The actor heard him narrate the story for two and half hours without uttering a word. "For that entire time, it was just my voice booming in the dining room. At the end of it, he just said, 'I love it and I will do it'. He's really unafraid to be who he wants to be, " he says.
The method seems to have worked so far. Unlike Aamir Khan, there's no hideous Tum Mere Ho in Ranbir's filmography yet. Yet he has been far more experimental than any major star at such an early stage of his career. That includes stripping rather strategically in his debut film, Saawariya (2007), playing a sardar (Rocket Singh) or a deaf-mute (Barfi!). "With Barfi!, he had already shown that no role is too difficult for him and no project too risky, " says Nahta. As Visvanathan astutely observes, Ranbir opts for "the alternative within mainstream".
Ranbir is not without flaws. Critics say there is a similarity in the way he plays most of his characters. There is no pronounced difference in the way he interprets the commitment-phobic philander in Bachna Ae Haseeno, the slacker in Wake Up Sid, the ethical salesman in Rocket Singh and the individualist in YJHD - all boys who end up as men by the last reel;the trajectory of their transformation being the film's narrative and emotional core. In Rockstar too, while he brings out the rage and angst of JJ, another boy-man, his Haryanvi accent keeps slipping like his towel.
But as Mukerji says, Ranbir generally manages to be better than the movie he acts in. "Irrespective of the director, he brings something to the table which is his very own, " says Mukerji. Which is why even in a flop (Saawariya), zany commercial venture (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani) or regular romcom (Anjaana Anjaani), he emerged unscathed.
There is always something nuanced about his performance. For all his raffish charm and showboating dance moves in YJHD, the protagnoist Bunny (played by Ranbir) has several shades of grey. He hates his step-mother (and the Rooh Afza she makes), forgets about his best friends when he gets the job of his dreams, spurns true love and even misses his father's funeral. That by the end of the movie, he manages to make Bunny one of us, or at least something many of us imagine ourselves to be, is a compliment to Ranbir.
Basu says Ranbir is more an instinctive actor than someone who prepares in detail for a role. "Anybody who saw Barfi! would think that he went to a workshop. But he didn't, " says Basu. Mukerji says his acting homework is a process. "He spends a lot of time with the director. He has a nice, relaxed style of getting an insight into the director and the project, " says Mukerji.
Directors also see him as a team player, someone who understands and takes interest in the entire project. Basu narrates a story during the shooting of Barfi! to illustrate the point. "We were shooting in Pollachi taluk in Tamil Nadu. The nearest town with a five-star hotel was Coimbatore which was roughly 40 km away. We booked the entire unit into a small hotel in Pollachi. For Ranbir and Priyanka, we reserved rooms in Coimbatore. The day he landed, Ranbir asked and found out that the unit was staying near the location. He immediately shifted to Pollachi. "
With inputs from Bharti Dubey
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